“Fake News” and “Alternative Facts” seem to be the order of the day at the moment, no more so than in the reporting of defence news. At least, one almost hopes so because it would be worrying if all the stories published recently were true. Yet, would it be surprising if they were?
I don’t suppose I will remember all of them, but a few will make the point.
You could help us with this. Write to your MP, especially if he/she is in the defence team or a member of the Defence Select Committee, and ask them to explain what is happening to our armed forces. Please send a copy of your letter and the reply to us. We would be most grateful.
Meanwhile, I hope you have read the Discussion Paper by Fred Dupuy. It highlights the issue of procurement about which we are going to put strong pressure on the government. Something is seriously wrong at the moment leading to waste and serious gaps in capability.
Finally, are we getting to the point when the government can no longer claim that it believes that Security and Defence are the first duties of government?
We have had a busy start to the New Year, culminating in the launch of Commentary 13 on 17th January. The authors and our CEO, Andy Smith, put a great deal of work into producing “STRATEGIC DEFENCE & SECURITY REVIEW 2015: ONE YEAR ON” and I hope you will take the time to read it. It was launched at the RAF Club at the same time as the Prime Minister was delivering her speech on Brexit elsewhere! There was nothing that could be done about that, but it was encouraging that we still had a good press turnout and a good question and answer session.
A few days before that there was a debate in the House of Lords on “Armed Forces Capability” introduced by Lord Robertson. It was encouraging to see that there was cross-party concern about the strength of our armed forces. Two of our Patrons spoke in the debate with Lord West being followed by Lord Campbell. A portion of Lord West’s speech is on our Homepage and you can read the whole debate here.
It was not a long debate, so please don’t be put off reading it.
We held our latest Board Meeting on 18th January during which we co-opted a new member to the Board. Fred Dupuy had a 45 year career in the Merchant Navy and has just contributed his second discussion paper which will be on the website shortly. Keep your eyes open for “Are Big Ships really Sinking the RN?” To read more about Fred go to “About Us’ and select “Directors”.
Finally, the venue for the Richard Holmes Memorial Lecture has been booked. We have been fortunate enough to gain access to the Palace of Westminster once again. The lecture will be in Committee Room 6 at 6.30pm on Wednesday 24th May.
2016 has been a busy year for UKNDA and I should like to thank all of you who have worked hard on our behalf, particularly our CEO, our Secretary, the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council.
It has been something of a mixed year for defence, starting with some encouragement from the tone of SDSR 15, but ending with the feeling that the government still doesn’t appreciate the importance of properly balanced armed forces.
The chart on the Home Page of our website clearly shows that spending has come down sharply over the years to 2% of GDP, rather than the impression the government likes to give which is that it has risen to that level. Not only that, but it was some careful accounting, rather than new money, that allowed us to reach that figure. After earlier defence cuts we have a lot of catching up to do in equipment, manpower and skills, so spending is going to need to rise. A percentage of GDP is all very well as a base, but it does not take into account the safety and security needs of our country.
As far as NATO is concerned, it is worrying that the majority of members are not contributing their agreed share. This has to be addressed as a matter of some urgency.
There were, of course, other developments in 2016, a couple of which made me think. It was the first year since 1982 that patrolling the Falklands was left in the hands of a ship smaller than a frigate or destroyer. It was also the year that an EU military exercise took place on Salisbury Plain, with the EU flag prominent on military vehicles. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit talks, an EU Army is surely a complete waste of time and money.
Finally, looking forward to next year, do not forget the Richard Holmes Memorial Lecture on 24th May.
I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.
At the moment every story about defence seems to be more depressing than the one before.
Almost every day it seems, we hear of shortages of personnel, poor accommodation for those we do have and worrying gaps in our military capability. It was announced recently that a large number of apparently redundant bases were to be closed during the next few years, and that the money realised was all to go into improving accommodation elsewhere. We must ensure that these funds are not subject to accounting creativity and find their way into the infamous 2%, instead of being extra to it.
Recent news reinforces our view that defence spending should be nearer 3% of GDP, but we have to argue that with a government who show all the signs of not understanding the importance of sound and balanced defence.
It also appears that someone took their eye off the ball with regard to surface to surface missiles. For a view on this do please read the latest UKNDA Discussion Document which has been published today, and then give us your views.
Andy Smith, our CEO, recently held a meeting with our “Authors Group” who are intending to publish another of their excellent Commentaries in the New Year. Naturally that will also be published on the website. I hope you have also read Andy’s latest statements on NATO and the proposed EU Army.
It has been decided to launch this blog in order to try to keep members, and potential members, up-to-date with what UKNDA is doing to achieve its aims.
It will be published as, and when, thought necessary and the Home Page of the website will indicate when a new blog is posted.
The AGM was held in October and I was pleased to welcome a small, but enthusiastic, group of members to the meeting. The existing Board was re-elected, including Col. Andy Allen who had been co-opted in May.
One of the issues discussed was how to attract more members to the AGM. By their nature, AGMs tend not to attract many people, particularly if much travelling is involved. Having a speaker may be beneficial, as could moving the meeting to the same day as the Richard Holmes Memorial Lecture. The latter, while appearing attractive, may present too many administrative problems. If you do not usually attend the AGM please do use the Contact Page on the website if there is something we can do to attract you to come.
I do not intend these blogs to be lengthy, but there are a number of issues I have in mind to cover, so do please check the website, from time to time, to keep in touch with our activities. Our CEO, Andy Smith, works very hard on our behalf, and I shall keep you informed about his latest work.
There are a number of members who publish articles or books, so I intend to bring these to your attention shortly.
Meanwhile, I hope you have the date of the next Richard Holmes Memorial Lecture in your diaries. It will be held in London on Wednesday 24th May 2017, and will be given by the eminent historian Dr Peter Caddick-Adams. The venue will be confirmed early in the New Year.